Sewanee and Yale Collaborations

Karen Yu

Professor of Psychology, Sewanee
B.S., Massachusetts institute of Technology; M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

A member of the Sewanee faculty since 1996, Karen Yu earned her B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Vanderbilt University, supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Her dissertation examined the influence of semantic knowledge on visual motion perception, reflecting her broader interest in the potential influence of knowledge and expectations on what are traditionally conceptualized as basic perceptual processes.

Before coming to Sewanee, Professor Yu taught on a part-time basis at Vanderbilt University and Belmont University. At Sewanee, she has taught Introductory Psychology, Introductory Psychology Laboratory, Physiological Psychology, Research Methods, Cognitive Psychology, and an upper-level seminar on Cognitive Illusions, in addition to supervising student independent study projects. She has recently added a new upper-level laboratory course in Cognitive Psychology, and an upper-level seminar on judgment and decision-making.

Professor Yu’s research interests are wide-ranging within the area of cognition, including metacognition, decision-making, unconscious components of and influences on cognition, and the influence of prior knowledge and expectations on various perceptual and cognitive processes. Her research interests are shaped in no small part by students’ interests and questions. Recent projects include an examination of academic honesty and dishonesty in a decision-making context, and an examination of children’s reward preferences and the effects of food rewards on children’s conceptualizations of food in the context of the current obesity epidemic. Her current research focus is on decision-making widely construed.

More recently, Professor Yu has helped to develop an interdisciplinary course on Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia taught by an eclectic mix of faculty from both Sewanee and Yale in combination with local community partners. She is actively involved with Discover Together, a program created collaboratively by the local community, Sewanee, Yale, and Scholastic, Inc. to promote resilience by fostering social connectedness and community engagement through shared knowledge and appreciation of local places, people, and their stories. In this context, Professor Yu is intrigued by how conceptualizations of place influence both individual and collective identities, by the power of place as departure point for inquiry, and by a model of learning and being that grounds larger-scale principles and concepts in concrete, local realities.